The Future of the BMW M3, M4, M5 and 1 Series Have Been Called Into Question
There are certain things BMW M won’t do – this is the listby Robert Moore, on LISTEN 03:55
M brand wouldn’t be so special. Likewise, BMW M can’t do the same thing to every single car, or it can have negative effects on the lineup as well, in one way or another. That is why there won’t be a BMW M1 beyond the M135i or a manual M5.
BMW M Has No Business With FWD Performance Cars So a BMW M1 Won’t Happen
There will not be an M1, plain, and simple. BMW may have surprised us when it jumped into the FWD segment with the new 1 Series, but that doesn’t mean the brand is going to embrace the FWD architecture beyond the M135i. The means that the 1 Series will never fully take on the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Renault Megane RS, or even the Honda Civic Type R.
During the 2019 BMW M Festival in South Africa, BMW M Boss, Markus Flasch, told Australian media that FWD is just not suitable for high-performance M models.
If you don’t like the decision, then I guess you should probably blame the outrageously popular M2:
“We have a very strong offering in the M2, so we figure there’s no need to have (both) a high-performance car based on the (long-standing rear-drive) 2 Series and then a performance car based on the (new-gen, front-drive-centric) 1 Series. The M135i xDrive is very attractive in the performance segment but if you really want high-performance customers will always go for the M2. (The M2) is the most charismatic and purest model that we have, and we’re working on a successor. There is no reason to do something different with the 1 Series.”
On that note, the BMW M135i is an AWD model, and it can take on the Mercedes-AMG A35, Audi S3, and Volkswagen Golf R, so you can’t flat out say that BMW is ignoring the hot hatch segment altogether – it just doesn’t want to dilute the M brand by offering M2- levels of power in a FWD compact.
The BMW M3 and M4 May Be Delayed, But They Will Be Available With a Manual Transmission
Hot on the news that the M3 and M4 have been delayed until at least late 2020 as 2021 models, we’ve now learned that they will at least be available with a manual transmission.
But, don’t expect that manual transmission to come cheap. During the same event mentioned above, Flasch told media, “The manual stick shift is not an entry proposition anymore. It used to be the entry transmission then on top of that you’d have the automatic or a sequential gearbox or whatever. Today, it’s different. Today the standard is the automatic, and the manual is for the enthusiast. A manual isn’t faster on the racetrack. There are some advantages, such as weight, but in the overall package not really. (But) it’s something that adds character. And it’s something our customers love.”
Fortunately, this is good news for those of us that prefer to skip the self-shifters all together and rock out a good old fashioned three-pedal setup. The problem is that these manual-equipped M3s and M4s could get rather expensive because they are tied so deeply that that enthusiast mindset:
“Part of this strategy is that we’ll increase our share in this high-performance and performance segment, and there will be more special models directly derived from customer-based cars on a bigger scale in the future.”
In other words, there will be a handful of limited-edition hardcore M3 and M4 models equipped solely with a manual transmission.
Word has it the standard production range will include the M3 or M4 Pure, which will be those with a manual transmission and, probably, a slightly lower output.
A model that will sit above that will include a higher power output and an automatic transmission. Then, over the years, a handful of those aforementioned limited-edition models that will, of course, sell at a premium, will launch at seemingly random times throughout the M3 and M4 lifecycle.
As it seems, the manual M3 and M4 are going to be a little harder to attain in one regard or another, but the good news that you’ll be able to get the M3 or M4 with a manual transmission – the same can’t be said for the M5.
The M5 Will Carry On With an Automatic Only, and You Can Thank the U.S. Market
BMW understands that we still love manual sportscars, and that’s why it will continue to sell the M2, M3, and M4 with the choice of going manual if you please. But, the M5, on the other hand, is a different story.
“We’ve made a conscious decision (with M3 and M4) to continue (to offer manuals), and the market that pushed us very hard to do so was the United States.”
The problem with the M5 is that nobody in America wants an M5 with a manual transmission.
According to Flasch, there’s a serious lack of customer interest in the M5 with a manual and, as such, BMW M won’t offer one at all.
“We will keep the manual in the core models of (M) 2, 3, and 4. But nobody asks for a manual in an M5,” Mr Flasch says. “I’m producing cars for our customers and (they have) a very, very clear opinion of what they want to see.”
The Future of BMW M
At this point, BMW has a pretty clear plan of what it wants to do with M-Branded models, and it’s pretty clear BMW M will steer clear of any M-Branded model. Furthermore, BMW M is going to be pickier than ever with models that are offered with a manual transmission, and that means that future models of the M3 and M4 may not be quite as easy to attain with a manual transmission. The more important take away here is that BMW and the M Division will continue to deliver pristine, over-the-top sportscars with enthusiasts in mind. That’s something we can all get on board with.